Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Issues: The Avocado Dillema

anywhere but here- MONKEY CHOW

Living green sounds so holistic and natural; it would be easy to assume that it is in our DNA to make good choices for the planet. But sacrifice doesn’t come naturally, especially when the things you are asked to sacrifice are delicious!

I’ve been hearing the “avocado debate” in the news a lot lately. Experts on sustainability are advocating that consumers buy local foods. Transporting food from other continents increases carbon emissions, causes food to lose nutritional value, and does not support local farmers. The message is clear, “If want to be a conscious consumer, give up your avocados”.

Why did they have to pick such a buttery, rich, melt-in-your-mouth, tastes good in everything fruit? In my household we eat about two avocados a week- I use them to jazz up Mexican dishes, salads, and wraps.

...Now I find out my menu is part of the emissions problem. But what is the solution? I don’t think an avocado tree would be too fond of our Canadian winters; and asking me to quit avocado cold turkey would be like telling my dog there’ll be no more walks. There has to be a happy medium, a way to have your chocolate avocado cake (yes this cake really exists) and eat it too.

My solution might sound like a cop-out, I still buy avocados because I love them. But I try to compensate for this uneco-friendly purchase. I borrowed my philosophy from Bob Greene, Oprah’s personal trainer. He said that it’s what you do 80% of the time that counts. Now, he was referring to diet and exercise, but I think this idea can be carried over to other aspects of daily life- like grocery shopping. Go ahead and buy avocados, oranges, olives, or whatever produce you crave that just doesn’t grow locally. The solution is to compensate for these purchases by trying to fill the other 80% of your shopping bag with local ingredients. I'm especially lucky to live in Niagara, where we have a wide variety of produce, meat, cheese, wine, and artisan bread at our doorsteps.

What grows locally in your area? Challenge yourself to buy seasonal local foods and you might be surprised by the culinary combinations you create; like an apple and avocado salad with creamy Camembert cheese. mmmm.

Need a little push to incorporate local foods into your meals? Take the Veggie Village Pledge: “use locally grown produce in at least one meal a week for a year to help reduce my/our carbon footprint”.

Want to learn about the 100 mile diet challenge? Listen to Deconstructing Dinner’s free podcast “100 Mile Diet/Local Food Strategies”

Thank you to Aaron Kovalcsik of MONKEY CHOW for the use of his limited edition art print, 'anywhere but here'. This artwork, along with original hand made art and prints of robots, aliens, monsters, frazzled tech, little creatures and more are available to purchase from MONKEY CHOW's online shop. Check it out!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holistic View: I think I'll go for a walk outside

Under a Sky Full of Stars- Whimzwhirled

Our cold snap here in Southern Ontario has passed, warming up to a balmy -4° C this morning. So I'm going to suit up and go for a walk. I'll need a few winter essentials: long underwear for starters, wool socks, a sweater, winter coat, scarf, hat, mittens, and since I'm feeling really ambitious, snow pants (you never know when you'll suddenly have an overwhelming urge to make a snow angel).

I love winter walks for a few excellent reasons. First, my dog is the funniest in the snow. He dives right in, and always FACE first. He bounds, making him sort of look like a rabbit hopping through piles waist deep. And after his burst of energy he eats big mouthfuls of the white stuff (which automatically reminds me of being a kid, I used to eat snow all the time. It was delicious!)

The second reason I love winter walks is that I love to see the first signs of spring poking out-this is a great activity for kids by the way! Take your kids for a walk today (or pretend you're a kid, I won't tell) and play a game with them, 'I spy....Mother Nature Edition'. Notice the birds that are out, are they different than the birds you see in the spring and fall? What do their songs sound like? Notice the trees, are they really dormant? Or are they starting to bud, getting ready for spring's blooms. Notice the tracks in the snow, do you know what kind of animal made those tracks? A squirrel? A rabbit? A dog? If you're really lucky maybe a deer? Nature is out there, whether you live in the country or the city. You just have to be a detective (also fun to tell kids).

Third, going for a walk outside is good for you in so many ways! If the 'I spy' game doesn't have you grinning from ear to ear, maybe that feeling of connecting with nature will. Exercising, especially outdoors has been shown to improve mood, concentration, and boost your immune system [1-3]. My own anecdotal evidence- I love it when my students come inside from recess. They are much more quiet, focused, and ready to learn after they had some good ol' play time outside.

Thank you to Janice Sean of Whimzwhirled for the use of the her original hand built and digitally altered art collage 'Under a Sky Full of Stars'. This artwork, along with over 100 stunning original art collages and gift cards are available to purchase from Whimzwhirled's shop. Check it out, you'll be blown away!

1. Plante et al. 2007. Does Exercise Environment Enhance the
Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Women? International Journal of Stress Management, 14:88–98. See the article
2.O’Brien et al. 2011. Outdoor Education, Life Long Learning and Skills Development in Woodlands and Green Spaces: The Potential Links to Health and Well-Being. Forests, Trees, and Human Health. 343-372.
3. 2011. How Does Exercise Benefit the Immune System? Accessed on January 29, 2011 from:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Definition Day: Sustainability

Twig Couple II- Fric de Menthol

Ah sustainability, that word gets thrown around a lot. Sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, sustainable cities....Sustainability may be the new 'green', and I'm sure we all have a vague understanding of what the word means, but personally, I think understanding the true definition is very important. Because if we're all striving for sustainability we should have a clear definition to follow.

I first heard that confusing word, sustainability, back in 2005, in a conversation with a friend at the University of Guelph. The details of that talk are long forgotten, but I still remember the feelings of embarrasment when I had to stop my friend mid-sentence and admit 'I don't know what sustainability means'.

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty, noun: The social and environmental practices that protect and enhance the human and natural resources needed by future generations to enjoy a quality of life equal to or greater than our own [1].

Comes from the root sus·tain, verb: to support, to endure without giving way, to keep from giving way, to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life, to provide for [2].

Sustainability is composed of three or four parts, depending on who you ask: the environmental, economic, social, and cultural components. Sometimes, culture is left out, but it is especially important to some groups, including First Nations.

I like to think of these four parts as the pillars, or foundation upon which sustainability is built. If one one of the pillars is weak the whole system falls out of balance/ equilibrium.

So, sustainability is about more than protecting natural ecosystems. When we strive for sustainability, we are striving for a future that is able to balance the needs of the environment with the needs of humanity, including financial needs, infrastructure, government, and cultural heritage. Sounds pretty fantastic right?
Sustainability is indeed a lofty goal, but it is a journey we must embark on together if we want to achieve the planetary balance and harmony that sustainability strives for.

So how did I do? Did I leave out an important point? Still have questions? Please join the conversation on sustainability.

Thank you to Fric de Menthol for the use of of their original illustration 'Twig Couple II'. It, along with many more illustrations, prints, and postcards are available to purchase from Fric's online shop. Please check it out.

[1] US Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Accessed on January 28, 20100 from:

[2] 2011. Sustain.Accessed on January 28, 2011 from:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Hi there, my name is Teala, and I decided to start writing this blog because I was tired of browsing the magazine rack and thinking 'there's nothing here for me' optimistic, fun-loving, tree-hugging, adventurer with a passion for living things.

...Well that's an oversimplified version of the story. The truth is I'm tired, a bit overwhelmed, and a little confused.

I'm tired of being bombarded by advertising for 'so called' green products.

I'm overwhelmed by all the doom and gloom about our planet and the environment in the media.

And I'm confused about making green choices. What does 'green' mean anyway? And what about eco certification? Is it better to eat local or organic? What's better: upcycled, recycled, reused, repurposed? Phew!

So here's the plan- we're going to tackle this mountain of sustainability together! One itsy-bitsy baby step at a time. Because that's how change happens, at the roots, with a tiny seed, a small gesture, a positive intention. Come along for the ride. My goal is to make environmental education both easy and fun, because learning every day and making smart choices should make you feel good!

I'm going to talk about food issues, green choices at home, eco fashion and beauty, green marketing (and green washing), and green heroes in our communities.

And what are my credentials? I've got a Master's in Biology with a minor in Science Education (which means I can read the latest scientific literature and explain it to my boyfriend in plain English). In school, I was criticized for being too colloquial in my scientific writing, but one professor encouraged me to write popular science (so here I go). My expertise is bringing science education to the community. I work for a not-for-profit, teaching science to elementary school children. I'm passionate about involving youth in environmental education, especially amphibians and reptiles. I'm also a nature photographer, which basically means that I can't get enough of nature. I live, breath, and dream biology so it comes out in my artwork too!

I'm excited to start this adventure with you, but I need your help! Do you produce a green product? Are you pioneering a green project in your community? Are you living that elusive holistic lifestyle? I'd love to feature you on my blog! So get in touch with me!